Deputy President William Ruto has asked leaders to engage the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) following the latest formula of sharing the multi-million shilling equalization fund that has increased counties from 14 to 34.
Twenty counties are big winners in the latest formular of sharing the funds; a move that has led to uproar from leaders who say the move by CRA is unconstitutional.
Speaking during the opening of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) conference held at a Malindi hotel in Kilifi County, Mr Ruto said the Government was willing to take on board suggestions made by the leaders to resolve the stalemate.
“We are ready to take on board suggestions from various actors on how to solve the matter. We are ready to make the funds available after issues surrounding the fund are sorted out,” said Mr Ruto.
He said Article 203 of the Constitution provides for the Equalization Fund derived from audited government revenue, to go to 14 ASAL Counties, saying 12.4 billion has been deposited in the kitty, since then.
He said during the financial year 2018/2019, Sh 4.7 billion was allocated to the fund.
Mr Ruto said following the review of the marginalization policy by the commission on revenue allocation, a total of 34 counties including the 29 ASAL counties would benefit from the fund for the next 3 years.
“We encourage counties to continue dialogue with the commission to ensure that the equalization fund is implemented as envisaged in the constitution,” he said.
Mr Ruto, at the same time, said, the Government is committed to the transformation of ASAL into an economic powerhouse aimed at uplifting the lives of the people.
Mr Ruto said the Government has put in place a detailed policy, legal and institutional framework to accelerate development in ASAL regions.
“As Government we have made deliberate decisions including improvement of roads, connecting houses to electricity, provision of water, health and education services to create new narratives of ASAL regions so as to erase and reverse marginalization of the past,” said Mr Ruto.
He said the history of marginalization of the region by the previous regimes could only be made useful by leaders ‘if we take lessons that can help shape the present and that of the future generations’.
Mr Ruto told leaders to develop vision that can change the narratives of ASAL regions from that of poverty, hunger, insecure, disease and conflict ravaged areas to that of peace and development.
“We must never become hostages of wrong decisions made in the past but we can learn to make the right decisions now,” said Mr Ruto when he opened ASAL conference held at a Malindi hotel in Kilifi County on Wednesday.
He said the Government and the World Bank are investing more than Sh 100 billion in 10 underserved counties in North and North Eastern region through the Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC).
Mr Ruto said the project launched in April this year in Garissa focuses on transformative and integrated infrastructure and sustainable livelihoods.
The Deputy President said the establishment of the state Department for ASAL areas was a clear indication that the Government was committed to transforming the region.
Mr Ruto said irrigation is a central plank of the transformation agenda in Arid and Semi Arid Areas.
“Through the National Irrigation Board, we are deploying modern irrigation technologies to intensify food production in various projects across the country,” said Mr Ruto.
Present were National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Cabinet Secretaries Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) and Simon Chelugui (Water and Sanitation), Governors and MPs from 29 ASAL counties.
Mr Duale opposed plans to increase the counties in ASAL areas set to get share of the Equalization Fund from 14 to 34, saying it was against the spirit of the constitution.
“It is against the spirit of the Constitution to increase the number of counties to share the Equalization Fund from 14 to 34. We will contest the move in the court,” said Mr Duale.
Mr Wamalwa said the biggest threat to devolution was corruption.
He urged counties to join hands with the national government in fighting the menace so as to ensure successful implementation of devolution.
Chairman of Council of Governors Josephat Nanok (Turkana) said the Equalization Fund should resolve its intended purpose in line with the Constitution.
He said the implementation of the fund through the Treasury was wanting suggesting it should be run by the Department of ASAL.
Governor Kingi said there was need for county governments to harmonize its development with the national government.
US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, UN Representative Siddarth Chatterjee and Head of EU Cooperation Bruno Pozzi said development partners would continue to support the Government in implementing development programs in ASAL areas.
“As development partners we will work with the national and county governments in initiating projects that can improve the lives of the people,” he said.
ASAL Parliamentary Group chairman, Alloice Lentomoiga (Samburu North) called on the need to address the problem of marketing facing livestock farmers in the area.